Ingrid Heÿdenrÿch & Kathryn van den Berg

Day Zero looming over the head of the Western Cape, it is unclear what concrete plans Stellenbosch University (SU) has for when the water runs out in Stellenbosch.

Martin Viljoen, SU spokesperson, said “SU has implemented a Drought Response Plan Contingency Committee that are working towards reducing the water footprint of its five campuses.”

Danika Pedro, a representative of faculties management who works at the water communication kiosk in the Neelsie, said “Day Zero is actually sooner than expected.”

The Western Cape government predicts that Day Zero, which is the day that water will run out in the Western Cape, will be on 12 April. The dam levels are currently 20%.

Viljoen pointed out that the depletion of water in Cape Town will not hit Stellenbosch as hard so soon as surrounding areas. “We are not on the same schedule or level as the City of Cape Town.”
Our campus will be able to run for three to four months after Cape Town has hit Day Zero according to Pedro. “Half of Stellenbosch’s water is supplied by boreholes which the municipality has drilled,” Pedro said.

However, this water cannot be consumed, since the iron levels are too high. “The urgency of conserving tap water for drinking is still a high priority on campus,” Pedro said.

Viljoen said that over the past few months Facilities Management has started implementing a wide range of water saving initiatives across campuses. “This includes the fitment of efficient showerheads in residences, restrictor aerators on taps, waterless urinals, water replacement units and fittings in toilets. Electronic water meters are being fitted to measure water use in buildings and detect leaks, and recently several boreholes were drilled, with several more to be drilled during the next few weeks,” he said.

At this stage, level 6 water restrictions are in place in Stellenbosch, which comes down to 87 litres of water per person per day.

“The Drought Response Plan Contingency Committee is working closely with researchers and water experts to explore innovative ways of conserving water and ensuring our campus has access to water,” Viljoen said.

Pieter Kloppers, head of student communities, said at a mentor training session on 23 January, that the goal is for the entire SU to use 45% less water than in 2015, which was in the pre-draught time period. “If we don’t, then that is when the real problem starts in terms of restrictions and making it really expensive for us,” Kloppers said.

The university has not yet released a contingency plan for when Day Zero hits Stellenbosch.